Turkey – (warsoor) – Turkish voters are going to the polls to decide whether to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a second five-year term, in the most fiercely fought elections in the country in years.
Polls opened at 08:00 (05:00 GMT) in presidential and parliamentary votes.
If Mr Erdogan wins, he will adopt major new powers that critics say will weaken democratic rule.
But he faces a major challenge from centre-left candidate Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Turkey remains under a state of emergency imposed in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016.
These elections were originally scheduled for November 2019 but were brought forward by Mr Erdogan.
Casting his own vote, the president claimed there was a high turnout so far, which showed the maturity of Turkey’s democracy.
“Turkey is going through a democratic revolution with this election,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile Turkey’s electoral commission said it would look into reports of ballot-stuffing and intimidation of observers in the southern Urfa province, which borders Syria.
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Mr Erdogan and his main rival Muharrem Ince both held huge rallies on Saturday, their final day of campaigning – and each branded the other unfit to run Turkey.
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Mr Ince, whose fiery campaigning has revitalised Turkey’s demoralised opposition, promised to push back what he characterised as a slide into authoritarian rule under Mr Erdogan.
“If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to… Fear will continue to reign,” he told at least a million people gathered in Istanbul. “If Ince wins, the courts will be independent.”
Mr Ince also said that if elected, he would lift Turkey’s state of emergency within 48 hours. Emergency rule allows the government to bypass parliament.
At his own rally, President Erdogan – who was prime minister for 11 years before becoming president in 2014 – used a violent metaphor to summarise his hoped-for result, asking supporters, “Are we going to give them an Ottoman slap [a technique for knocking someone out] tomorrow?”
He accused Mr Ince – a former teacher and MP of 16 years – of lacking the skills to lead.
“It’s one thing to be a physics teacher, it’s another thing to run a country,” Mr Erdogan said. “Being president needs experience.”
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